TAIYE ODEWALE takes a look at the move by the Nigerian Peace Corps to get legal teeth after President Muhammadu Buhari would have signed the bill into law.
Barring any hitches at the presidency, the bill legalizing the establishment of the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) as a peace promoting outfit in the country will become an Act of Parliament this month after being signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Stage for this expectation was set last year by the House of Representatives and the Senate with passage of the bill titled: “Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) Bill 2016” on the 12th of June and 24th of November respectively after 24 years of struggles to that effect by the two different outfits, namely, the National Unity and Peace Corps (NUPEC) led by Dr Chinedu Nneji and the Peace Corps of Nigeria led by Dr Dickson Akoh but now to be merged and known as Nigerian Peace Corps under a National Commandant to be appointed by the President.
Recalling the genesis of the Peace Corps outfit in Nigeria after Senate’s endorsement for its official recognition in November last year, the Commandant–General of National Unity and Peace Corps (NUPEC), Dr Chinedu Nneji said the journey started in August 1992 when Professor Jibrin Aminu as a serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave the nod for the establishment of National Peace Corps in the mode of the one established in the United States of America (USA) in 1961 by late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy for maintenance of peace in America and industrial peace across the globe.
According to him, after 24 years of voluntary services to the Nigeria society, the Federal Ministry of Interior last year, gave the outfit operational licence to act and mediate in conflicts which to a very great extent, has practically positioned it for the task ahead as peace promoter in the country.
He disclosed that journey for the enabling law for the establishment and official recognition of the agency started in 2008 when the outfit made its first incursion into the National Assembly for that purpose.
“In 2008, we made our first incursion into the National Assembly during the 6th Senate for approval as one of the existing and officially recognized Federal agencies. Made second incursion during the 7th Senate and the final push during the current 8th Senate which had along with the House of Representatives, made our dream for that purpose to come into reality with their passage of the bill providing the legal template for the establishment of the Nigerian Peace Corps by the Federal Government of Nigeria from the two sister bodies that had been existing and operating on voluntary template over the years”, he said.
Dickson Akoh in his own reaction to the passage of the bill said: “Today’s achievement was a clear vindication of all the struggles that have brought the Peace Corps of Nigeria to its present stead”.
The development according to him, has opened a new chapter for the two sister bodies and a fresh vista of opportunity for the growing number of unemployed youths that have up to date been yearning for genuine and concerted efforts of the government towards initiating deliberate and conscious policies in pursuit of the engagement and empowerment of the Nigerian youths.
A view shared by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki in his remarks six weeks ago after the passage of the bill by saying thus: “this Bill offering the legal template for the establishment of the Nigerian Peace Corps is very important because of the role it will play in the security and peace of the country.
“The agency when officially established via presidential assent to this bill, will be efficient in providing peace and security, particularly in view of the rising crises situation in the country, as well as create employment for Nigerian youths”.
Operationally as envisioned by the passed bill, six Deputy Commandant Generals and six Assistant Commandant Generals drawn from the six geopolitical zones, on the basis of the federal character principles will assist the Commandant-General in the running of the agency at the federal level while Commanders and Deputy Commanders would be in charge at the state levels for smooth running of the peace promoting and youth engaging agency.
Highlights of the functions of the agency as stated in the passed bill include but not limited to (i) training and equipping the youths with the knowledge on Peace Education, Conflict Intervention, Mediation, Reconciliation and Confidence Building.
(ii) Providing security for all Educational Institutions and checking all forms of examination malpractices and other vices prevalent in schools, colleges and Tertiary institutions in the country.
(iii) Serving as Aides or Orderlies to members of the Executives, Legislative and Judiciary arms of government that are not covered by operatives of other security agencies.
(iv) Collaborating with other security agencies in crowd control during public events or functions in ensuring peace and orderliness at public gatherings.
(V) Enforcing the laws of the land against defecation in public places, recreational centres and tourist sites etc.
Though the agency was not specifically captured by any of the provisions of the N7.298 trillion 2017 budget estimates presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari in December last year, but job creation for the teeming unemployed youths in Nigeria which the platform offers, surely makes it very attractive to the government for consideration and final approval by way of Presidential assent any moment from now after which it will definitely be accommodated in governmental spending for the 2017 fiscal year.
One may therefore not be wrong to say congratulations to all volunteers within the National Peace Corps outfits over the years in advance and the teeming unemployed youths in the country waiting for such platform for full activation of their vibrancy and energy for national productivity.
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